School Choice & Charters

Va. Board’s Role Grows in Overseeing Charters

By Catherine Gewertz — April 06, 2010 1 min read

| Virginia | Two months after he took office, Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell secured legislative victories on three education issues he had highlighted in his campaign.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell
Republican
Senate:
22 Democrats
18 Republicans
House:
39 Democrats
59 Republicans
2 Independent
Enrollment:
1.2 million

During its 2010 session, which ran from mid-January through mid-March, the Virginia legislature approved a measure to give the state board of education a bigger role in approving and renewing charter school applications. The bill mandates that the state board set specific criteria for charter school reviews and provide a detailed report about how each application stacks up against those criteria. In the past, the board conducted a simpler review and comment process. The new law does not give the state board the power to reject a charter school application. In Virginia, that power still rests with local school boards.

The legislature also gave the state board a heftier role in evaluating virtual, or online, schools, and created a program of laboratory schools for K-12 students in partnership with colleges and universities that have teacher education programs. The idea behind the lab schools, which have not yet been funded in the state budget, is to draw on the expertise of faculty to create innovative precollegiate programs.

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell talks with state lawmakers at the state capitol in Richmond last month. He won several legislative victories.

Lawmakers cut the state’s K-12 budget for the current fiscal year to $5.4 billion, from $5.9 billion, to respond to lean fiscal times. The cuts include a $79 million reduction in spending on textbooks and a move to replace $219 million in state funds with money from the federal State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, part of the economic-stimulus program approved by Congress last year.

The $82 billion state budget that the legislature adopted for the biennium that spans fiscal years 2011 and 2012 includes $10.8 billion for precollegiate education, 11 percent less than the $12.1 billion originally allotted for K-12 education by lawmakers in 2008, for fiscal 2009 and 2010.

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A version of this article appeared in the April 07, 2010 edition of Education Week as Va. Board’s Role Grows in Overseeing Charters

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